It’s around 12 am on a Thursday night, unseasonably warm outside for the middle of March, and subMercer is getting crowded. There are two DJ’s on duty, Jacques Renault and Brennan Green, both spinning heart-pounding disco. As a result of their fine handy work, an impromptu break dance competition has formed on the small floor in front of the DJ booth – a dapper gent in a half-mullet rhythmically bouncing to the breaks, as a small girl in a green dress sort of gyrates next to him.
Earlier in the evening, long before people started showing up, Katie Longmyer was worried that turnout might be a little slim tonight, on account of the gorgeous weather (subMercer is in a basement. Maybe people will favor a more open-aired venue?). But as midnight comes and goes, droves of SoHoites begin to flood the party (thrown along with Anthem Magazine). Longmyer stakes out a perch in the back room near the DJs, drink in hand, a small group of friends surrounding her, the early-evening worries are quickly proven unfounded.
Longmyer strikes an incongruous figure at a place like this. Pencil-thin women in high stilettos and sleek black skirts are dancing with becoiffed men in low-cut shirts, self-serious pouts on many a face. Katie is not pencil-thin, she’s smiling, and she seems to favor jeans and simple blouses over the more elaborate (and expensive) outfits of her guests. But on this temperate evening, this is her space, as it is once every month here at subMercer. Longmyer–who works under the pseudonym “The Queen Bee“– may be unassuming, but she is a Queen of New York nightlife, a well-connected party-giver whose events have been getting more and more crowded.
Though she has been in the business for almost a decade, it’s only been fairly recently – in the past year or two – that Longmyer has seen her profile really start to ascend. Since 2005, Longmyer has run a party-promotions group called Good Peoples. She’s also co-owner, along with business partner Jennifer Lyon, of Meanred (Good Peoples is a subsidiary), which throws its own parties and shows at venues across the city and owns and operates the Brooklyn Yard, the open-air summer music venue next to the Gowanus Canal. Longmyer seems to know everyone in the scene – DJs, club owners, musicians and of course fellow promoters – in part because she seems to be everywhere. In addition to her monthly soiree at subMercer, Katie and Good Peoples have thrown parties at places like GoldBar, Von, Ella, Santos and a Chinese restaurant-turned dance venue called 88 Palace (which at times has the feel of an early ‘90s rave, without the parachute pants). This summer, Katie will be presiding over a monthly party on a refurbished civil-war era schooner called The Clipper City that docks at the South Street Seaport. And she says, she’s now in conversations with The Box about throwing parties there.
Take it as a sign of the times, perhaps, that Longmyer’s ascent has been so recent. A downed economy and the city’s apparent newfound hostility to some New York nightlife (witness the closing of Beatrice and the Jane, and city raids on a slew of bars for alleged smoking violations) have contributed to the closing of more than a few high-end clubs and bars. All this, plus a slightly more impoverished social set, have given no opportunities to independent promoters. “The New York club scene is kind of on a weird tip right now,” says Jacques Renault, one of the DJs at the subMercer party. “A lot of people want to do loft parties, a lot of people want to do things that are special, and clubs are…” Renault trailed off. “We want to establish a place where you want to go, and all of your friends want to go.” He added, “And Katie is an instigator [for that].”
“Katie’s good at what she does,” says Joey Rubin, who runs a New York promotions company called TASTE, and who has worked with Katie on a variety of projects. “She’s really good at building real friendships, and I think that the general public wants to be around a tighter network of real friends and not just sterile [commercial venues].”
Longmyer’s email list is eclectic, and each of her party seems to bring out a slightly different group. “At the New York parties that I loved, all different types of people came, no matter who you were and what you were like, you all went into one big room,” she says, as we sit in a corner of the space, sipping cocktails before the start of the evening’s festivities. Dave Brubeck is playing across the speaker system.
Longmyer complains that in recent years, the nightlife industry has lost sight of itself and “turned into a business that defeated the whole point of nightlife. It was about moving product and volume, and you needed a certain clientele to buy a certain number of bottles and that changes your whole situation.” She adds “when the economy tanked you lost a lot of those dollars and if that’s what you rely on, that’s what you lose. That’s why a lot of those bars are closing.”
Longmyer is an improbable party maven – the daughter of a music teacher and a career foreign service officer (her father, Kenneth Longmyer, served as U.S. Consul General in Amsterdam and ran for Congress in 2006 . “I met Strom Thurmond at an ambassador party when I was five,” Longmyer says). She studied classical cello in college and says she had dreams of becoming a symphony conductor when she was younger. But she also liked to go out, and at a relatively young age became a regular on the D.C. house music scene. “I saw all the people skipping the line at clubs, all the people talking to the D.J.s and by I was like, ‘How do I meet the person who threw the party? How do I meet the DJ?”
While still an undergrad, Longmyer began working for Warner Music Group as a “field rep,” going out to various venues on behalf of the company, at first in D.C. and then in New York. She transitioned into a job as assistant to Lori Feldman, a marketing executive at Warner. In 2004 Longmyer started Good Peoples as a side project. “Katie was well-informed about a part of music culture and style culture that very few people at a big mainstream company like Warner Bros. were informed about,” says Feldman. “She wasn’t just informed. She lived it every day.” By 2008, Good Peoples had become Longmyer’s main focus, and she left Warner. “My attention and desires were becoming more and more focused toward Good Peoples, and it just became unfair for me to stay,” Longmyer says. Soon after, Jen Lyon recruited her to merge Good Peoples with Meanred productions, and they began throwing events full time together. The two expanded from there. “Katie gets it…she’s just really plugged in she brings in the cool kids, the very downtown set,” says Gabby Mejia, SubMercer’s General Manager. “I just feel like New York nightlife definitely went down hill over the last few years and she’s one of the people who gets it and is bringing it back in terms of music and in terms of crowd.”
This summer, Longmeyer will be back at The Yard with her partner Jen Lyon, and she will continue to hold court at her traditional haunts like SubMercer and Von. And, of course, there’s the talk of parties at The Box.
It may be that the nightlife world, like all else, moves in cycles and one day, a few years down the line, the flashy, bottle service-oriented crunk clubs of yore will resurface. For now, though people like Longmyer seem to be filling a different sort of need. “It’s a simple concept,” says promoter Joey Rubin. “Katie brings family around – it’s the name of her damn company. Good Peoples. That’s what she does. People want to be attached to real relationships. And people who are good at building that are bringing an entirely new business model to nightlife.”